Visiting Koh Samui
Koh Samui is a paradise island in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s the country’s second biggest island and is known for its white beaches, lush greenery and luxurious resorts. Once a shoestring backpacker destination in the 1970s, Koh Samui has now grown into one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions. Visitors from across the world flock to the island to enjoy sunbathing, swimming and spa treatments beneath waving palm trees. Another draw is its delicious southern Thai cuisine, with rich curries being a speciality. The island also attracts divers due to its coral reefs.
Where to stay in Koh Samui
When deciding which of the many beach hotels in Koh Samui to stay in, it’s all about picking the best beach location for you. It seems there is a beach to suit everyone on Koh Samui, from backpackers to relaxation seekers to party lovers. Whether you are travelling on a shoestring, heading off on honeymoon or treating yourself to a luxury escape, you’ll find your perfect stretch of sand somewhere on the island.
Chaweng beach is the island’s largest resort area, so much so that the town of Chaweng has grown out of it. It’s the best beach area in terms of nightlife, particularly around the Green Mango strip which is filled with young partygoers heading to bars and clubs, so if you’re looking for fun then this is where to stay. Lamai beach is the second largest resort area on Koh Samui. It’s quieter than party town Chaweng and has more of a relaxing vibe, though it still has plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from. It’s a great place to unwind with a spa treatment or simply stroll across the white sands. Maenam beach is a backpacker hideaway, perhaps due to the fact that it’s a little trickier to reach by foot, so is more secluded. It’s dotted with the cheap beach bungalows loved by budget travellers, but the luxury Santiburi resort is also in this area. If you’re looking for some traditional Thai charm then head to Bophut beach, which has a well-preserved fishermen’s village filled with traditional wooden Chinese shops. Next door to Bophut is Big Buddha beach (Bangrak beach), which is known for being a relaxed stretch of sand loved by both families and backpackers. This beach is near to the island home of the famous Big Buddha temple (Wat Phrai Yai).
Accommodation choices in Koh Samui
Koh Samui offers accommodation to suit a range of budgets. There are many good resorts and hotels in Koh Samui, from backpacker beach huts to air-conditioned bungalows to luxury spas. If you’re looking for opulence, then consider the 5 star Nora Buri Resort & Spa at charming Bophut beach, which is one of the best luxury hotels in Koh Samui. The resort has a private beach, plus two outdoor swimming pools and a full service spa. A mid-price option is Chaweng Garden Beach Resort. Situated in the heart of Koh Samui’s liveliest area, Chaweng, hotel facilities include balconies, free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. For a budget option, try Mali Samui Resort guesthouse. Based at restful Lamai beach, the guesthouse offers an outdoor pool, fridges in rooms and free WiFi.
What to do during your stay in Koh Samui
Koh Samui offers every shade of paradise, from luxury spa resorts to shoestring travel havens to vibrant party beaches. A major attraction is Big Buddha beach (Bangrak Beach), near to the Big Buddha temple (Wat Phrai Yai). The temple is on its own small island via a two-mile long causeway. Its golden Buddha statue is an impressive site at the top of a dragon-guarded staircase and there is a fabulous view of Koh Samui from the top of the stairs. Near to the Big Buddha is Wat Plai Laem, a dramatically colourful lakeside temple that includes a statue of the Goddess of Mercy and a massive white Chinese Buddha.
Lamai beach is the site of the famous Grandfather and Grandmother rock landmarks. Due to erosion, the rocks have idyllic pools inside them where you can bathe. Sail Rock is a much-loved diving spot on the island due to its marine rich coral reefs. The Secret Buddha Garden is found in the jungle interior of the island at the summit of Pom Mountain. The garden is a striking assortment of statues and temples assembled over many years by a local fruit farmer. Ang Thong National Marine Park is a stunning archipelago composed of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. This protected wildlife area includes breathtaking limestone mountains, luscious jungle and heavenly waterfalls.
There are other nearby islands of interest too. Take a boat to Koh Tao (“tao” means turtle) to enjoy the excellent scuba diving on offer and explore the coral reefs. Or head to the backpacker haven of Koh Phangnan, perhaps in time for one of its legendary full moon parties.
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